Mommypotamus is hosting a Birth Story Bash and so I thought I’d share B’s story here since I was probably going to do it eventually anyway. This was written just six days after his birth when I was deep in the throws of post-partum depression and the beginning of post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s not a pretty or happy story in the least and if you’re pregnant, I wouldn’t recommend reading it. But it’s his story…it’s my story, and I’m really working on being able to embrace that. That this is the story that brought my son into the world with all of its ugliness. It’s the story that has brought me one of my greatest joys.
Be warned….it’s very long.
19 august 2010 – 2:57 pm
I am finally sitting down to write B’s birth story. I’ve put it off because the last week or so has been the hardest of my life and the fact that I cry at the drop of a hat doesn’t help matters. But I know this is what I need to do and I am hoping it will be therapeutic for me.
In many ways, I got the birth I had dreamed of. For nine months, I had prepared myself for a beautiful, natural birth in the quiet setting of a local, independent birthing center. I imagined myself laboring through early first stage at home before we made our way down to the birthing center where I would climb into the giant birthing tub and breath my way through active labor and the transitional stages before making my way to the log bed to push my son into the world. I pictured the dim lights of the room, candles lit, and maybe soft music playing. I saw it as a quiet and beautiful experience. Then, four to six hours later, after we had a chance to bond and recover (including a wonderful sitz bath by the midwives), we would go home to begin our life together. I had this playing out in my head especially during the weeks before his birth as we made the final preparations for our big drive to the birthing center. We went through the list of things to bring given to us by the midwives and by the time my due date came we were all set. Now it was just a matter of waiting on B to decide it was time.
My due date came and went without incident. E took me to my favorite restaurant for supper and the waitress told us that we’d have to call if he was born that night so she could write his name under the table which was something she had done for another couple who had decided on a name for their baby there. He didn’t come that night nor during the three days after that before I had my next prenatal appointment. It didn’t go all that well and I was discouraged to find that I wasn’t dilated at all. The wife of a man who E works with had recently given birth at the same birthing center, but it had taken her 41 weeks and 5 days to go into labor (the cut off for them is 42 weeks) and they had tried everything in their power to get her to go into labor, so I of course kept picturing this for myself as well. Either that or 42 weeks would come and I’d end up having a hospital birth which was, aside from a c-section, my greatest fear.
Two days later, on Wednesday morning, the contractions began and continued for two days. I was able to put all of the things I learned in our birthing classes to good use and relaxed and breathed through every time I got hit with a contraction. I remember it being painful and definitely uncomfortable, but it was never unbearable and I knew that this meant he was finally coming.
We called the birthing center early Thursday morning to let them know that we were making progress at home and also to see if I still needed to go to a biophysical profile and non-stress test they had scheduled for me that afternoon. I was really hoping they would say I didn’t have to go as the contractions were getting pretty strong at that point and I really didn’t want to put him through another ultrasound since I knew he hated them. But the midwife on duty said that we did need to go just in case labor petered out. I kept praying that maybe I’d go into full-blown labor before then so we wouldn’t have to go, but B had other plans and we ended up keeping the appointment.
The drive to the place was pretty bad simply because of the contractions, but then having to walk half a block from the parking lot then sit and wait a half hour for the appointment itself did not add to the experience and the whole thing was probably my least favorite aspect of those two days of labor. The ultrasound technician was incredibly kind and understood our nervousness about putting him through another ultrasound and tried to make it was quick as possible. She confirmed that he was in a good position and all of his movements, except for his diaphragm rising and falling, looked great. Ultimately I wasn’t concerned about the diaphragm not moving as he had the hiccups constantly and I had actually seen it on the outside myself. We then had to wait another twenty minutes for the non-stress test while I had a few more contractions. On the way to the room, the nurse asked how I was doing and I smiled and told her I was in early labor. She stopped in her tracks and just stared at me and asked why we were doing this and then how far apart my contractions were. We had been timing them most of the time with E’s iPod and they had hit the six-minute mark just before we went in to the ultrasound. We told her this and she threw her hands up in the air and left the room. I immediately regretted telling her and settled myself into the chair, trying to make myself look as comfortable as possible so maybe I’d calm her a little bit. She came back a little while later and told me that the doctor said I needed to go to the hospital, but we told her that we had been in contact with the midwives, they were aware of where we were in the birthing process, and that it wasn’t time yet. I don’t think she agreed with our decision, but did the non-stress test anyway. I had two-and-a-half contractions during it, five minutes apart, and B handled both of them very well. She told us the time between contractions then noted that neither of us had a watch, sighed, and let us go. I don’t think she was very impressed with us.
So we went home. E went and got some Chipotle for us while I tried to relax through the ever-increasing contractions. The midwife had said light meals, so I only ate half of it and continued to drink a LOT of water from our Camelbak which had been my constant companion since labor began. We continued to time the contractions and they were definitely getting stronger and closer and closer together.
At about ten that night, we called the midwife and let her know that they were very strong and right around the four-and-a-half minute mark. The birthing center’s policy is to wait for contractions that are three minutes apart lasting one minute for at least an hour, so she told us that she knew she’d be seeing us that night, but that she wanted me to to take a hot, twenty-minute shower and call her back after that. While I was in the shower, they got even stronger and closer together, though not quite to that three-minute mark yet. I was sure she was going to tell us to wait longer, but E thought otherwise and grabbed the rest of our stuff before he called her again and she told us it was time to come in.
Leaving the house was pretty surreal. I remember walking down the stairs to the garage and thinking that when we came back here, we would have a baby with us. The ride there was not too bad as it was 11 at night and we managed to hit nearly all green lights, which I was very thankful for.
When we got to the birthing center, we made our way upstairs to the birthing area, which was kind of a neat experience as all of my other appointments had taken place in the office area and I’d never been able to go straight upstairs before. The midwife met us at the door and watched while I had a contraction in the waiting room on one of the birthing balls which was a WHOLE lot easier than trying to breath through one on the couch or in bed. Then she told me that the tub in the room that I had wanted, the “big” or “log” room, was too hot so she recommended going in one of the other rooms since she knew I’d want to be in the room with the best tub. So we went with the blue room which was actually a close second choice for me as it had a Klimt painting on the wall and he is one of my favorite artists.
The midwife checked me and I was already six, almost seven, centimeters dilated, which meant I got to stay. I then stripped down and climbed into the birthing tub which was absolutely amazing as it made the contractions so much more bearable. I had invited my two best friends, A and S to come and they showed up a little later. We all just sat around chatting while I breathed through contractions, E made sure I drank water, and the midwife timed my contractions. I remember it being very peaceful and calm and even though I was in a lot of discomfort when the contractions came, I always tried to picture how each contraction was pulling my uterus up around my son and pushing him down a little further. During several of the more difficult contractions, I pictured myself making the final push and the midwife placing him on my chest so I could finally hold him in my arms which definitely helped me get through them.
I was very conscious the whole time of where I thought I was in the labor process. I got really hot at one point, so they walked me out to the balcony with a birthing ball and I sat through a few contractions out there with everyone gathered around me while the midwife told us a story from the birth of one of the other women I knew at the birthing center. I then got too cold, so we went back inside, but I was glad because I wondered if this was a sign that I was in or at least nearing transition, which is the final phase before the pushing stage. I had felt a little nauseous a few times, which was also a good sign. Back into the tub I climbed and went between feeling hot and feeling cold while S controlled the fan that was blowing on me. It was during this time that the midwife called in the nurse who was on duty and I asked her after that if I was in transition and she laughed and said she thought I was. This made me really happy.
The contractions were really powerful and I definitely had a harder time getting through these than the ones before, but I knew transition wouldn’t last long and then I might have a little break before I had to push. I was proud that I never once said that I couldn’t do it because it had been drilled into me on so many occasions that transition wouldn’t last forever and then I’d get to push, which was a great feeling. Finally, when the contractions were at their peak, I began to throw up (Chipotle doesn’t look quite the same going down as it does coming up) several times, which was a definite sign that I was in transition. Each time I threw up, I pushed which helped me get through the last little bit of transition. With the final upchuck, I let out some kind of crazy guttural noise and actually pushed which was a sure sign that transition was over and the pushing stage was soon to begin. I was ecstatic as everything had progressed so well and what I thought would be the most difficult part (transition) was over. Everyone present was absolutely amazing through all of this, especially E who just sat outside of the tub right next to me on the floor always making sure I was taking sips of water or drinking juice or eating the small honey energy snacks that the midwife had given us to maintain my energy. I can’t emphasize enough how much I loved the atmosphere of the room as there were candles lit, the lights were dim (just as I pictured it for all those months), and everyone was having quiet conversations either with me between contractions, or amongst themselves, which I also liked to hear.
I did get a small break after transition of about ten minutes where I continued to have contractions but they were no where near as powerful as the ones I had had in transition. I floated around in the pool and actually almost fell asleep at one point while the midwife and nurse on duty (who had actually said at my appointment earlier in the week that I should wait until Thursday to have him as that’s when she was going to be on duty), prepared for the pushing stage.
Now, I can’t really recall all that happened during the pushing stage since so much did happen and at the end it was all kind of a blur. I know I started in the pool and during one of the initial pushes, I felt a pop, a gush, and B wiggle and shake like crazy so I said, “I think my water just broke.” The midwife grabbed a flashlight to check to make sure the water was clear of meconium while asking me if I had felt a pop and I said that I had, along with a gush. There must’ve been a few more pushes in the pool before she told me I needed to get out of the pool and climb on the bed. I must’ve pushed there a few more times while the the nurse set up one of the birthing stools with chux pads and a mirror underneath so I could see when he was crowning. I hated the birthing stool as it was incredibly uncomfortable and I kept thinking about the other women I knew who had recently given birth and one had only pushed for fifteen minutes while the other one had only pushed for a half hour. I kept praying that I wouldn’t have to push that long and after each push I asked if he was crowning yet, which the midwife always responded with a no.
I switched from the birthing stool to the toilet since that’s where I had done quite a bit of laboring at home and I had hoped that it would be easier for me to push there since it seemed like it would be a more natural thing. There still wasn’t much progress being made, so the midwife once again moved me to the bed where I tried different positions.
They continued to monitor B’s heart rate at random intervals just to make sure he was doing okay and twice during that time, right after pushing contractions, it dropped to a fairly low number so the midwife had me quickly move to the bed (either from the birthing tub or the stool) and stick my bottom up in the air to get him into a better position. Both times his heart rate went right back up to where it should be which is exactly what was supposed to happen as it’s normal for the baby’s heart rate to drop during contractions.
At about the hour-and-forty-five-minute mark of pushing with not much progress, his head started to show during each push and the midwife told me she could see his hair which was a huge encouragement to me as I was getting pretty tired. With each push, I had to remember to spread my legs far apart, curl my back around him, and tuck in my chin which was hard to do. Finally, at about two-and-a-half hours of pushing, the midwife told me she had to have him crowning by 5 am (it was 4:30 at this point). I knew that if I couldn’t get him out by then, I’d have to go to the hospital, so during the next few pushes I gave it my all.
After the last push, the nurse checked his heart rate again and it dropped so I climbed up on the bed again and she put the doppler up to my belly while we waited for his heart rate to go back up, but it never did. It was then that the midwife told the nurse to call the ambulance and I began to panic. There’s really no way to describe how I was feeling or what I was thinking but the main thing running through my mind at that point was that my son was going to die. I was sitting on all fours with my butt up in the air on the bed completely naked and all I could do was stay like that while the nurse put an oxygen mask on my face, then gave me a shot of some kind that was supposed to help his heart rate and lessen my contractions, and attempted to put an IV in my hand. I kept getting the overpowering urge to push, but I knew I couldn’t so the midwife told me to just breath through them which was completely impossible at times as my body was still telling me to get this baby out. His heart rate went back up after about two or three minutes and then it was just a matter of waiting on the ambulance.
I’m describing this with a lot more calm than how it actually happened. It felt like mass chaos as I was posed there on the bed, unable to look around the room because I had to keep my rear end up in the air so B would stay in a good position. I know E was next to me, rubbing my back and I know that A came over at one point to tell me she loved me. I think everyone was crying mainly because we just didn’t know what was going to happen, though I know at least E and I assumed it was going to be bad.
The ambulance took ten minutes to get to the birthing center – the longest ten minutes of my life. At the time I obviously didn’t care but after everything was done and I was able to think back on this moment, I was pretty mortified that these men saw me like this, especially as they entered the room from behind me which meant my butt sticking up in the air was the first thing they saw. I know it’s their job and considering the situation, this was the least of my problems, but it was yet another way in which this whole episode was a complete nightmare.
They somehow got me from the bed to the stretcher, still with my butt up in the air and still completely naked, until someone threw a blanket over me. All I remember about this time were the voices all around me and trying so, so incredibly hard to fight that urge to push and failing a few times. Occasionally I’d hear the midwife telling the paramedics something as they wheeled me out to the ambulance, all the while trying to hold on to the edge of the stretcher so I didn’t fall over. E wasn’t allowed to go in the ambulance as the midwife had to keep the doppler on my belly to monitor B’s heart rate, so he rode separately with S (who was wonderful and offered to drive him to the hospital), A, and the nurse. The ambulance traveled the two blocks to the hospital (we later found out that they called the wrong ambulance company) and I was moved around some more, still trying not to push, still naked, aside from the blanket that had shifted slightly, and still with my butt up in the air.
They moved me into another room and all these people started asking questions while I battled yet more powerful urges to push. I kept telling everyone, “I have to push, I have to push,” and eventually the midwife told me to push but not to give it my all, to just only push as gently as possible. I can’t believe how overwhelming those urges were, though they were probably more so because I was told I couldn’t do what they were telling me to do. The OB made his way into the room and asked the midwife about the situation and she explained everything to him. At the end, they moved me to lay on my side and I once again got the urge to push, which I told them about (I didn’t know what else to do when those urges came, I think I hoped they could make them stop if I told them, but of course they couldn’t), and, while E held up my leg, the midwife told me to go ahead and push strong this time so the OB could see. This gave me a fleeting moment of hope that maybe this baby would still come out naturally and everything would be okay. But as soon as the push was over, I heard him say the words that I had known were coming since the midwife had told the nurse to call the ambulance.
I think at that moment, because part of me had known it was coming, I just didn’t care anymore. I was so, so tired and just wanted my little son to be okay that I didn’t really think about the fact that this was all just the opposite of what I had wanted. All those months of planning and dreaming and hoping and praying were flushed down the drain and now it was really just a prayer that B was okay…that he was going to make it through this unscathed. In that moment, I just wanted him to be out of me in whatever way possible so that he could thrive. The OB presented me with some kind of paperwork for the C-section and epidural to sign and tried to explain it to me while I fought another urge to push, then I eventually signed it, though I don’t know how that signature could’ve been legal.
They wheeled me into the OR and transferred me to yet another bed where they thankfully told me to lay on my back. At this point, I think a sort of peace washed over me as the uncertainty of the last half hour or however long it had been was over. We had a plan and that plan was going to be carried out quickly and I was okay with that as it ultimately meant that my son would be okay. I remember looking over at one point and seeing E in scrubs and thinking he looked kind of funny then asking the anesthesiologist where she was from because she had a Minnesota-sounding accent (she was from North Dakota). All during this time, the midwife was right next to me, explaining to me what they were doing and answering any questions they had. In the background, I could hear the internal fetal monitor they had put on B to make sure his heart rate was staying up and I concentrated a lot on that tock, tock, tock noise. A few times, it sounded like it dropped a lot and I asked why it was so low, but no one would answer me so I just kept asking until the OB finally said it was fine. The nurse from the nursery came over to ask questions of some kind, though I can’t remember what, but I think it had something to do with our preferences regarding the standard procedures of administering vitamin K, erythromycin, and the hep B shot to newborns, none of which we wanted. I also said I didn’t want him to get any formula, but wondered if that dream was dead as well. We ended up getting the vitamin K shot per the midwife’s suggestion since he had been in the birth canal for so long and might be a little bruised. They kept making comments on the IV in my right hand which was completely covered in blood as the nurse had had a hard time getting it in. They put the epidural in and I remember feeling relieved because that meant the urge to push would go away and I would no longer be causing more damage. They began to pinch my belly in random places to see if it was kicking in, but I still felt it. Eventually, they said they had to start because too much time was passing so I felt the majority of it as they cut me open and tugged him out of me. It was painful, but it didn’t last long.
With a final pull, the midwife told me he was out and I listened for his cry which didn’t come right away as he had a lot of gunk in his throat. When I finally heard it, everything became so surreal and I was just completely overwhelmed by everything and started sobbing. I asked if he was okay and got to see him as they brought him over to the warming station after which the overwhelming feeling that I had completely failed him washed over me. It was just so much….so very much. E stood next to the warming station while they wiped him down and checked him all over and he was a completely healthy little boy with perfect color and a good, strong set of lungs and excellent APGAR scores. I was so, completely relieved but also so completely devastated as I had not been able to give him the start in this world that I had wanted. The midwife convinced the nurse to bring him over to my chest while they were sewing me up which wasn’t the hospital’s standard procedure for C-sections, so I could see and touch him which was important in the bonding process. I was so tired and even though I don’t remember much from seeing him up close for the first time, I’m so thankful that I got that opportunity.
After I was closed up, they wheeled me to a recovery room where I was asked about a million more questions while I tried hard not to fall asleep. Eventually, A came in and kissed my head, telling me again that she loved me before E wheeled our little man into the room and I was able to breastfeed him for the first time, which, again, I’m so thankful for. Those first few hours are key to mother-baby bonding and even though I knew I didn’t get as much as I would have if I hadn’t had major abdominal surgery, I’m thankful for what I got. The recovery room nurse cleaned me off then I was wheeled to our hospital room where we would spend the next four days.
I won’t go into our time at the hospital as this story is already pretty long, but I’ll say that it was overall just an awful experience and I was so, so glad to get home on Monday and finally begin our life with our new little son. I’ll admit that it was very difficult to come home in that there seem to be two versions of me living in this house, one is the Rebecca that used to live here who had a baby inside her and dreams and plans in her head for the future (and left little reminders everywhere about these dreams and plans), and the other one is the Rebecca that lives here now who is just trying to make it through the day without breaking down while trying to heal and enjoy her little son. The week since has been rocky and I’ve been pretty much a mess, crying inconsolably at times and okay at other times, but I’m hoping this lessens with time. I’ve stood in front of the mirror and faced head-on the incision that brought my son into the world and while I did cry, I think I’m slowly getting to be okay with it.
My main regret is that I was so close. That I had made it so far in the laboring process and he was almost there, but that last little bit just couldn’t be jumped over. I can’t help but wonder if there was anything I could’ve done differently, pushed harder or waited to push or anything like that and even though I’ve been reassured that there wasn’t, I don’t know that I’ll ever stop wondering. I met with the midwife yesterday for my one-week post-partum visit and she told me he had flipped himself around so that he was posterior and was coming down at a weird angle which meant it just wasn’t meant to happen the way I had wanted it to. In the history of the birthing center’s 600+ births, I was the fifth to be transferred to the hospital in labor via ambulance.
It’ll be a long and difficult recovery both physically and emotionally, but I am very thankful that I have my little son alive and well (currently laying on his daddy’s chest in bed next to me) and that I have a wonderful husband to help me through all of this. I know I am blessed. But I do still mourn the loss of a dream.
I ordered the operative report a few months back and learned that B was, indeed, posterior, his umbilical chord was wrapped around his neck, and his head was firmly wedged in my pelvis when they first opened my up. He was between +2 and +3 stations. He also weighed 9 lbs. and I am 5’2″ tall. It wasn’t an impossible birth by any stretch of the imagination as I had read countless stories of small women giving birth to big babies and I still very much struggle with the fact that my body just didn’t seem to work. It seems, though, that the odds were just against me.
That’s still a hard pill to swallow.
But I’m working on it. And I think the first step for me was to write out this birth story.